Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

November 7, 2007

TIM SCHMITT: Efforts like Gaustad's will get Sabres winning again

BUFFALO — While others stood proudly by their lockers minutes after the Sabres 2-1 overtime win over Boston on Wednesday, Paul Gaustad slumped, politely answering questions and sucking in every last ounce of relaxation.

The rest was well-deserved.

Gaustad banged hard all night with Zdeno Chara, hockey’s version of Ivan Drago. And when the game was through, and the Sabres managed to sneak out with a precious pair of points, Gaustad knew a good night’s sleep was coming.

“That’s the type of hockey I like, when I sit in a stall after a game and I’m totally exhausted. Those are fun for me,” he said.

While sitting eyes glued to a telecast isn’t physically as demanding, watching Gaustad play in games like Wednesday’s is just as fun for Sabres fans.

Gaustad laid a big hit on Chara in the first period, then took a two-handed cross check from the Bruin defender with no call. Still, he plugged along, later drawing an interference call on Chara.

In the third, he tried to pry the puck from Boston goalie Tim Thomas after the whistle, drawing another crowd.

Later, he stole the puck and had a decent short-handed chance coming down the right wing. After Thomas made the save, Chara drilled him into the side of the net. There was no call.

Most important, even though the team has been struggling to score and gain confidence, nothing in Gaustad’s game was going to stay quiet. What he lacked in energy in the post-game interviews, Gaustad delivered when the Sabres needed it.

Although he didn’t register a point, Gaustad finished with a team-high seven hits. It’s the only stat that quantifies the value Gaustad, a one-time mucker who’s quickly becoming the team’s emotional leader, brings to a group in need of a true captain.

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